I’ve been talking about why and why not to blog recently. Once you’ve committed to your blog, it can be a bit of a minefield. Here are the top ten blogging sins that I see over and over again, or hear other people complaining about. No one can be expected to know everything straight away, and we’ve probably all made at least one of these mistakes, so hopefully I’ll help you to avoid the big, bad ones with this list.
1. Not having an RSS feed
RSS is a way to allow blog reader software to collect your content whenever it’s updated and send it on to any of their readers who subscribe to your blog This Wikipedia article explains it all and examples of RSS readers include Feedly.
If you look at the top of this blog page, you will see that I have an RSS feed logo in the top right-hand corner, and a link in the right-hand menu bar, and I also offer a link to subscribe by email. All blogging software will have something in their settings that allows you to add this. If you don’t add this link, it makes it that bit harder for people who want to subscribe to your blog to do so (they can usually put the URL in their reader software, but are they going to do that extra process? Not always). Not having a button to use to do it quickly and easily can give the impression that you’re not interested in people reading your blog. That’s probably not true. But I’ve seen people get really cross about this and say that they’re not going to look at a person’s blog any more if they don’t have this. I know … but if one person’s saying it, how many are thinking it?
If you get stuck trying to add this button to your blog, the easiest way to find out how, is to Google your blogging software’s name and “RSS feed button”. You should find a YouTube video or set of instructions telling you how to do it.
2. Not updating your blog
If you set up a blog and you then don’t update it, it won’t help you to get more readers or to promote whatever it is you’re promoting. Google and the other search engines thrive on updated, fresh content. If you don’t update your blog regularly, it will fall further and further down the search rankings and no one will be able to find it. If you want to write a blog, commit to updating it regularly.
I’ll be publishing a post about scheduling and keeping active with your blog posts soon, so watch this space!
3. Stealing content from other people
It’s fine to “reblog” other people’s blog posts onto your own blog (where a snippet of the post appears on your page, with a link to the real thing). It’s fine to link to other people’s blog posts and tell other people about them. It’s even fine to be inspired by another person’s blog or content – one of my friends has started a questionnaire series a little like my Small Business Chat one but with an emphasis on marketing techniques: similar idea, different content, that’s fine.
It’s not fine to lift content wholesale from another person’s blog or website. If you quote large amounts of text written by someone else, it’s just the same as if you were using that in an article or essay – you need to reference where it came from and acknowledge the author. It’s fine to talk about newspaper articles or reports in your blog and react to them, not fine to quote them verbatim, or quote people they have quoted, and not give the original source.
Never be tempted to take someone else’s content for your blog post. At best, you won’t get picked up by the search engines anyway (see below). At worst, you’ll find yourself slapped with a lawsuit for plagiarism! And it’s just not right.
4. Reusing content in exactly the same form
Say you’ve had a guest post on someone else’s blog and you’re really pleased with how it’s turned out – so much so that you want to share it. So you post it in its entirety on your blog, too. Not a good idea.
All of the search engines, like Google, like to offer their users varied content. So if the same content appears in two places, both places won’t come up in search results. Effectively, one of them will be invisible to search engines, therefore invisible to people searching for keywords that might lead them to that content.
To look at it from a different viewpoint, if you’ve published information in a guest post, the owner of the blog you’re guesting on will want to be posting up original content, not things that can be found elsewhere. Some people actually specify that the content must be original in their guidelines for guest posters. See more about this in a week or so when I blog about guest posts.
How do you deal with this? Publish a snippet of the post on your blog, with a link to that post. Put some of your own text around it, then the search engines will find your post and your guest post, both of you will get found and viewed, and no one’s copied anything. There are clever ways to deal with all of this in the coding behind your blog, but I’m guessing that most of us aren’t the kind to deal with that level of complication – I’m certainly not!
5. Being rude or negative
I feel like a bit of a hypocrite writing this, because obviously this post is a little bit negative. But I’m also genuinely trying to help people to avoid making common mistakes! In the same way, I tried to make sure that my 10 reasons not to write a blog article talked about reasons for reviewing your blogging and content and making a positive decision. Whining and moaning and relentless negativity won’t make your readers like you any more than they would like you in real life.
Being rude can get you views in the short term. But it’s like those restaurants that people go to only because the waiters are desperately unfriendly. Fine for a laugh: but will they go back regularly for birthdays and anniversaries? Probably not. Even ranty blogs about politics or issues have to be constructive as well as rude!
If you want to have a rant or talk about a mistake you’ve made, try to vary and space out these posts, and make them as constructive as you can. We can all get a good blog post out of a bad experience, but make sure that you and your readers come away having learned something. I’m going to post soon about managing your social media brand, and this comes very strongly into that, too.
6. Posting inappropriate content
I don’t just mean lurid or dirty pictures here. If you want to share information about your management courses, then blogging about your exercise classes won’t get you the audience you want to buy your courses, unless you’re doing some very clever keyword placement and making the articles valuable to both groups of readers.
I have to admit to having a laugh at funny spelling mistakes as much as the next person. However, I’m careful not to mock or talk about or post pictures on this blog, because a lot of the people I work with as an editor are unsure about their English and using it as a second, third, fourth language … and would be mortified if they thought people were laughing at them (I don’t laugh at their English: I know I couldn’t do half as well as my overseas clients if I was writing in my second language. Bong joor toot le world).
7. Not giving your guest posters what they need
If someone takes the time to write a guest blog post for you to to give you more, fresh content, bring their fans over to your website, give you a marketing opportunity, etc., etc., then you need to do certain things to make the experience a good one on all sides. Chief among these, and something I see people having issues with all the time, is making sure that you provide live links back to their website and whatever it is they’re promoting, be it another website, their book on Amazon, or whatever. A live link is one that your readers can click on and be taken to their page, like this one which takes you to a post I wrote telling you how to add links to your blog posts!
Formatting guest posts that have come through in an email or an attachment can be tricky, full stop. I recommend pasting the text into a Notepad file on your computer, then pasting it from there into your blog post. Lots more on this in an upcoming article. But please make your guest blogger’s links live so that your readers can visit them online!
8. Not letting people respond to your posts
I like responding to blog posts. We all like responding to blog posts. We like to feel it’s a two-way conversation when we read something online, don’t we. But I still come across blogs every day that either don’t allow any comments at all, or make the commenting process so complex that people give up.
I have to say that the blogging software can be a culprit here. I can never seem to reply to Blogger posts, and WordPress itself can give the impression that you have to sign up to a WordPress account in order to comment on one of its blogs (you really don’t, you just need to add your name and email address).
Enable comments, even if you moderate and check all of them for spam (most blogging platforms allow you to set the level of moderation, for example, I hand-moderate the first post by anyone, and am alerted to all new comments, so I can check they’re not spammy or inappropriate). And listen to your readers – if you’re getting complaints about how hard it is to reply to a post, have a look at your settings and see if you can make it easier. One of my blogging friends has a note whenever you go to comment with an email address to use if the process won’t work – very helpful!
9. Not responding to comments
Allied to the above, if people take the time to reply to your blog, it’s only polite to take a moment to respond to them. Some people who get a lot of comments will do a general reply mentioning all of the previous commenters with a sentence addressed to them, and that’s of course fine. But I get a bit frustrated if I comment thoughtfully on a blog post and the author never responds. You don’t have to do it immediately, but I try to do it within 24 hours, a couple of days at most.
Conversations on your blog can be one of the most interesting things about blogging – so get out there and engage with your readers!
10. Only advertising, never helping
Yes, I and other people have told you again and again that having a blog will help your business. That’s true. But just blaring out adverts to your readers won’t make them keep coming back. Imagine two blogs, both about plumbing:
- One lists the different areas of plumbing the plumber can do, and has carefully inserted keywords to attract the search engines
- One talks about the jobs the plumber has done this week, including how she solved a particularly tricky question. She sometimes posts a question and answer about a common type of issue, like changing the washer on a tap
Which blog will you go to once, to find a plumber? Which one will you bookmark and read, share and tell other people about? Which one will actually bring the plumber more business in the long term?
I give away quite a lot of free advice on my blog, but just because I tell people how to set up a table of contents doesn’t mean that none of my clients ever ask me to do that now. On the contrary, seeing my expert advice, they trust that I can sort it out for them!
That’s my personal top 10 list of blogging sins. Would you add any to that? Are any of those NOT sins in your book? I’d love to know what you think, and whether you’re enjoying this new series of articles all about blogging!
You can find a growing set of articles on blogging and social media in the resource guide. Do click on the share buttons below or comment if you found this article interesting or useful!